So you have a story idea, and have a basic idea of how it should progress. Great. But whose story is it, really? Which point of view (POV) will best bring the reader into the scope of conflict? While first person brings readers into parallel view with the protagonist, the same can be accomplished, as Steve Almond writes in Fiction: Point of View, using the perspective of close third. Almond posits that POV is not nearly as important as the “emotional posture the author has taken toward his characters.”
Ginny Wiehardt suggests in How to Choose a Point of View that falling into the habit of using first person POV may skew your own perspective on the story. Writing as the protagonist may limit your ability to tell the story dispassionately, she states.
She also brings up an interesting POV – the unreliable narrator. If done well, the reader will be enriched by the POV of a character unwilling to admit the truth to him/herself, and by the experience of reaching that realization. If done poorly, however, the reader will feel cheated.
If you’re uncertain which POV to use, Ms. Wiehardt provides a writing exercise for third person.
As Randy Ingermanson says in his Advanced Fiction Writing eZine, POV creates an emotive context for your reader.
Margaret Atwood says: “A word after a word/after a word is power.” Randy takes this a step further by saying, “If you can write a great scene, over and over again, then you can write a pretty good novel.” Writing from the viewpoint of the character with whom the reader will best identify is the first step in the process.
As I said before, POV is a very complex issue, but I caution against overanalyzing it. I have always been a great believer in the “go with your gut” approach. You, as the writer, have the best insight into your story. You know what you want your story to say to the reader, what you want your reader to come away with after having read your story. Write that story, as you want to tell it.